New Orleans priest denies lawsuit's allegations that he raped boy in 2008

January 29, 2021

[with video]

The Rev. John Asare-Dankwah issued a statement Thursday denying allegations of rape and assault made against him in a lawsuit filed the previous day, saying he was “saddened and appalled” by them.

The well-known pastor at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church was in Ghana visiting his family when he was notified Wednesday night of the allegations in the lawsuit, according to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. The organization said Wednesday it removed Asare-Dankwah from service pending their investigation and would notify law enforcement.

The suit claims the alleged rape and assault of the then-10-year-old plaintiff, identified only as “A.A. Doe,” happened during a January 2008 retreat in Montgomery, Alabama. Doe was a member of Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, where Asare-Dankwah was serving at the time.

The lawsuit says Doe never mentioned the abuse to anyone following the retreat due to shame. It wasn't until September 2020 that the victim saw Asare-Dankwah officiate his grandmother's funeral that he decided to speak out, according to the lawsuit.

See Asare-Dankwah’s full statement, issued by a law firm.

"I am deeply saddened and appalled by the allegations that I’ve just been made aware of. These allegations are false. I have never harmed anyone in my service to God - particularly any child - and I am prepared to fight vigorously to clear my name that I’ve worked for nearly three decades building trust as a man of God. The only time I have been to Alabama is to visit a friend; I have never been to the state in conjunction with any religious retreat. I am deeply concerned for this young man and remain prayerful for he and his family. I know God is faithful and that the truth will prevail."

Lawyer Charlene Gibson, whose firm issued the statement, said Asare-Dankwah had not hired the firm to represent him but spoke to her law partner Daniel Davillier, and authorized him to release it.

Asare-Dankwah marked 26 years in the priesthood in June. He has officiated events for major public figures, including a transition event for then Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell. He spoke at the funeral of famed New Orleans chef Leah Chase in 2019.

There is the possibility that Asare-Dankwah could face criminal charges if authorities determine Doe's claims have merit. In Alabama, there is no statute of limitations for sexual offenses with victims 16 or younger.

The lawsuit states Doe attended a retreat with Asare-Dankwah and 10 other students from Catholic schools.

Doe claims that during a confessional Asare-Dankwah asked him if he loved God and loved Asare-Dankwah. That is when Doe claims the priest exposed his genitals to him.

The lawsuit alleges that Doe refused him two times before being forced to touch Asare-Dankwah. The priest told Doe, "This will be over soon" before raping the boy, according to the court document.

Doe claims due to the pain he suffered during the assault and the fear he had of Asare-Dankwah that he asked another student if he could bunk with him that night. The lawsuit says the student agreed and they slept facing different directions.

Doe says in the court petition that Asare-Dankwah entered the room and pulled Doe out of bed before taking him to another location alone. The lawsuit alleges that Asare-Dankwah accused Doe of being a homosexual, calling him a sinner, then prayed over the boy and beat him in the same area already traumatized from the rape.

The suit claims that Doe suffered a mental breakdown due to seeing the priest at the funeral. Doe allegedly began making strange calls to family, disappearing from home, standing nude in his yard and getting arrested following a confrontation at the funeral with Asare-Dankwah, according to the lawsuit.

Kevin Bourgeois, who leads the local chapter of SNAP -- Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said the average age of survivors who come forward is 52, he added.

SNAP has pressured the Archdiocese of New Orleans to cooperate with law enforcement investigations of sexual abuse. Bourgeois said Archbishop Gregory Aymond told him Wednesday evening that he had been in touch with police about the information in the lawsuit.

Bourgeois added that he believes the FBI could get involved if it is determined that Asare-Dankwah transported the boy over state lines to commit a crime.


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